Sometimes, just before an epiphany, a feeling of discomfort, even torment occurs. Like birth, a deep realization can move slowly through its narrow canal until it is born into the light of one’s awareness. There are Eureka moments that splash into view occasionally, apparently out of nowhere. But in some deep bovine level of mind, that cud has been chewed until its bliss point ignites. Such was my mood as I grappled with BBQ Jesus in the blue room in Santa Fe, surrounded by icons of the Virgin Mary with my sacred soil from Chimayo on the table next to my bed. This room was unusually peaceful, with a cool breeze blowing through the window as I drifted into dreams while praying for help in understanding why the bloody image of Christ attracted people oppressed by Christian conquerors.
No dreams brought me an answer, at least none that I could remember. I awoke with a clear vision of Christ as a liberating force in the world. It wasn’t just the aspect of death and then resurrection; it was being in the trenches with the downtrodden and overthrowing tyranny. I can’t convey the unexpected force of this awakening. After years of steeping myself in the failure of Catholic and Protestant churches to truly minister the gospel of Jesus, grace found a way to open my heart. I do believe in the wholly (making whole) spirit, the comforter who has delivered me from various circles of hell, sometimes with a swift kick in the behind. I certainly did not expect to see Liberation theology playing in the theater of my mind. The next morning I talked with my friend Ralph about my new found realization – that by seeing and understanding crucifixion, we find a path to resurrection. He told me that his cousin (a nun who works with the poor in New Mexico) meditates and sleeps in the blue room when she visits Ralph and Danny in Santa Fe. I had been following the Nuns on the Bus tour, which gave me hope that there were good Catholic leaders willing to step forward on behalf of the poor. The nuns courted severe consequences from the church fathers, who felt they had become tainted by feminist ideologies, but they were determined to walk in faith. The nuns drew a line in the spiritual sand when they declared they were following the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.
This spirit moves us to comfort the suffering, including the wounded savior. In Jungian terms, healing the wounded God (and thus ourselves) includes a growing exchange of energy between the ego (me) and the psyche or Self (I), aided by spirit as ally. For those interested in exploring this in depth I recommend Jeffrey Raff’s wonderful book Healing the Wounded God. As cells in the body of Christ, we share all the joy and suffering life offers together. This gift in which we are asked to grow beyond our assumptions, even of who and what we are, never stops giving. There are always moments in which we yearn for peace. Sometimes they come through grace and sometimes we must make the effort to find sanctuary. But this discomfort goads us to move and grow. It’s hard to believe the changes in my perception of the suffering Christ since I awoke in the blue room. The agony that life can bring when we see our neighbors suffering invites compassion, toward oneself and others. In each moment of pain we seek solace. Finding comfort, sharing compassion and healing brings a resurrection of spirit, of faith that we are loved. Since we began crying as babies, we learn to give and receive the comfort of love. I see the tears of Mary, the blood of Christ in the pain of the world, in every child, old person, victim and soldier. The choice to seek and to give comfort, to grow in compassion leads to resurrection in love. Love lifts us up with every glorious and tragic aspect of this crucifixion called life.
For those who wish to cultivate the presence of wholeness, of love, Christian contemplatives offer the Centering Prayer, a daily practice in which one opens to the indwelling presence of God. In the literature it is described as simply resting in God beyond thoughts, words and emotions.
Buddhist meditation goes beyond desire (including the desire for union with God) to cultivate detachment and objectivity, mindfulness – beyond the illusion of life into reality. Taming the mind by a mental focus of one-pointedness and following the natural in and out breath creates an inner calm, allowing one to withdraw the senses from the world. The awareness of three stages of being: impermanence, suffering and non-self arises as the practice takes one beyond the body and into the intuitional realm. Much preparation is done before deeper stages of meditation are taught.
All cultures have contemplative practices that help us center our focus inwardly. For those who have found themselves at the intersection of in and out, up and down, us and them, words do not explain. It becomes a way to anchor our restless mind as we stumble through the complexities of life, allowing humility to keep us on the path of love. Listen to your heartbeat, it’s synching with the pulse of the universe, or as Joseph Campbell would say, “Follow your bliss.”